More WTH News From The Cactus Patch


I have since given up smoking in my last portrait and had an ear reduction.

I can’t bring myself to watch our faux president give a speech. So, I didn’t. Instead, I watched the 4th episode of 1883. But I did catch bits of it on Youtube after the fact, and even then, I cringed and felt a tad oily. I realized that I, at 72 years old, am a domestic terrorist, right up there with the Antifa, BLM, and those crazy boys, the Taliban.

According to that pod person in the white house and Pelosi, I meet all the criteria; a Christian..yep, a gun owner..yep, a white man..yep ( although I am mostly Cherokee American Indian), an American patriot..yep, so I am a terrorist, and also a white supremacist, and a racist. I had no idea I was so damn evil. So it’s better to know now before I pass on.

I vowed after January 1st, I would limit my exposure to such political theater and nonsense in an attempt to lower my blood pressure and perhaps live a bit longer on this planet, which is doomed because most of Europe and about one half of the United States thinks a 16-year-old Swedish screaming savant is an expert on all things weather, climate change and the second coming of Baby Jesus. Sweden gave us ABBA, most of the folks in Minnesota, and Swedish Meatballs, and that’s about it. I’m really sorry that the cow flatulence from Texas ruined the ozone layer above Sweden and robbed her of her childhood.

If Jesus is coming down to kick our sinful butt’s, the ass whooping will likely start in Washington DC and then move on to the west coast, leaving most of America’s heartland alone, except for maybe Austin.

My late father’s late uncle, Harvey, was Biden’s doppelganger of a sort; although he more resembled Ernie Kovaks than Biden, He had the same temperament. I remember him as a demented screaming hot-mess in his twenties, and he lived to be eighty-five or so, perfecting his behavior into an act that the family immensely enjoyed during get-togethers on holidays. Hours of yelling and ranting about nothing, in particular, gave us children an excellent performance, which we much preferred to afternoon cartoons. He did take a piss in the gas floor heater one Christmas during our holiday luncheon, which cleared the house for a few hours, and he tried to roast his cat on a charcoal grill. Still, other than those few incidents, he was everyone’s favorite crazy uncle living in the basement. Today, with the proper handlers, he could have been president.

Uncle Harvey, during one of his classic dementia, inspired performances

Poor Ronnie Spector, she passed away “being no one’s baby.” Maybe she’ll send a selfie taken with Clarence, the angel, to Phil Spector, who is most likely roasting in Hell.

Betty White won the contest. She lived to 99 and was a few days short of 100. She outlived everyone she ever worked with or knew. Bad assed gal. Maybe she and Paul Lynde can get an act going and headline at “Sonny’s” Bar and Grill, located right off the main paved in gold highway next door to “Angels Wing Cleaning Service.”

After further and exhausting genealogy research, I found that I may indeed be related to Will Rogers, Chief Quanah Parker, Belle Star, and Butch Cassidy, but not the Sundance Kid. A decade ago, a fellow with the Sons Of The Alamo lodge, a dedicated member of whom did a run on our family tree, and these folks showed up. Queen Elizabeth is in there somewhere on down the tree and Odin the Viking king. I mentioned my family tree to my buddy Mooch, and he said, ” I got ya beat Lil’ buddy. I’m related to Golda Mier, Goldy Hawn, Old Yeller, Golden Earing, Wyatt Erp, King Faruk, Annie Oakley, The Hulk and Batman.” So yeah, I guess he does have one up on me.

Committing Myself To New Years Resolutions


As a child growing up in 1950s Texas, I never understood the need to put myself behind an eight-ball with proclamation’s I had no way of keeping. New Year resolutions were the worst of them all.

My parents made them by the dozens and broke them without batting an eye.

My mother was the worst of the family bunch. Every year, on the eve of midnight, she would make a grandiose announcement to the family, usually after a few glasses of sparkling Cold Duck wine or too many Old Crow eggnogs. She made many resolutions in her day, but her yearly favorite was “kicking the ciggies.” She smoked like Bogart, one in each hand with a third, lit and waiting in the ashtray. My father, a lesser smoker, was a rank beginner compared to his bride. As a result, our household had more ashtrays than dishes. My sister and I also enjoyed the mild smoke from the ever-present Chesterfield cloud that hung in every room. Mother finally kept her favorite resolution at the age of 74, with some help from emphysema.

So, here I am at 72, and for the first time, I am considering making a New Year resolution or two.

I’ve been kicking around the less painful ones, easy things like giving up red meat or sugar. But then, Ovaltine contains sugar, and there is no way I can sleep without my hot Ovaltine, usually taken between 1 and 2 am, which is also my writing hours so that one is out. But, on the other hand, red meat can give me gastronomical grief, and I like fish more so that one is still doable.

Abstaining from distilled spirits? Now that’s tough, but it seems to be the national favorite.

It’s immensely satisfying to hold a crystal snifter of Jamesons or Tullamore Dew while sitting on my patio admiring the beauty of our local mountain, Comanche Peak. Good Irish whiskey settles my nerves and fuels my literary creativity. Jack Kerouac and Truman Capote will attest to that. Reaching old age without dying is hard work, and suitable rewards are in order. So unless I plan to stop writing and live out my final days as a nervous wreck, that one is kaput.

Attending a non-denominational house of worship with my bride. I can do this one with a few exceptions. Firstly, how does the word “none” go with denominational? There are hundreds of organized religions out there, just pick one and go with it.

Secondly, I’m old school church. I need to hear “the word of God,” not some big-haired pastor with an expensive haircut using the bible as a Cliff Notes report. I don’t dance hip hop in the isles, or clap, or sing songs projected on a screen, or enjoy hearing a choir of off-key screeching women whining about their personal tradgadys to the accompaniment of a Led Zepplin tribute band. I need that old-time religion to soothe my soul. The bubble-haired lady playing that Hammond B3 organ; that old rugged cross hanging on the wall next to the velvet Last Supper painting. A yelling red-faced slobbering preacher that points to me and says I’m going to Hell in a used Honda if I don’t change my sinful ways, and then expects money for admonishing me in front of strangers. Uncomfortable seating is a must. I can’t be a Baptist again, that would require me to give up my Irish whiskey, so it’s best to move on to another resolution or consider becoming a Catholic.

Improving my health. Maybe the easiest one of all, except for the sugar Ovaltine thing and the Irish whiskey thing. I possibly can do this one and make it stick. I beat the snot out of Cancer, so what’s left that could get me?

My doctor is young and hip. He wears one of those Apple watches that keep you alive and listens to TED talks in his wireless earbuds and drives a Tesla. He recommends, walking, hiking, biking, going to the gym, meditating, using fewer medications, and eating less of everything that tastes like food.

I reminded him that I need a knee replacement and major back surgery, so the walking, biking, hiking, and gym are out. Using fewer meds? He’s the idiot that put me on them. Sorry doc, I am not eating bagged weeds, Kale, plant-based meats, or gluten-free anything. Lactose-free milk is as woke as I get. I could only achieve a meditated state after a pipe full of Maui Wowie and Cat Stevens on the stereo.

By writing my resolutions down, I realize that nothing has changed since I was a kid. I’m not standing behind that eight-ball at this age.

Is Christmas Over Yet?


My great great great something, Belle Starr.

Christmas Eve 2021 is upon us, and there is no escaping it.

I’m aware that my advanced age drives many of my phobias and fits of melancholia. Still, with our country going to complete crap in a Crate and Barrel wooden box, it’s impossible to fool me into becoming a smiling Father Christmas sitting around the fire drinking hot chocolate while reading “The Night Before Christmas” to our wokie grandkids. But, of course, they wouldn’t understand why someone would write such a fairytale. They are much too smart for their young age, thanks to Google and iPhones.

Yeah, I’m an old school guy with old school thoughts, when I can remember them. My wife says she is worried about me; I don’t remember things she says she told me ten minutes earlier. I tell her, “well maybe you didn’t tell me but thought you did.” It goes both ways. Then I find my car keys in the refrigerator, next to my reading glasses and wallet.

I used to laugh when my father asked me what day is it? Now, I am my father and my son laughs at me. Aging is not for pussy’s. It takes a real man to survive it.

That’s why I write short stories and blog, it keeps my mind sharp, and my wit acrid. The brain is a muscle that craves stimulation. I would think the number of medications I take would do that job, but creating fictional characters and predicaments based on my street rat crazy family makes me a whole person.

Who needs genealogy? I don’t. My grandmother, mother, aunts, uncles, and other relatives tell my sister and me that we are related to the famous female outlaw; Belle Starr. Also to Chief Quanah Parker and Will Rogers. Of course, they have no written proof, only hearsay delivered around a campfire or a supper table. I sent some spit to a genealogy outfit and they sent me a report. It wasn’t what I expected.

Northern European, Russian, English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, and Neanderthal; not one molecule of American Indian, even though my Granny was born and raised on a reservation in Oklahoma and lived in a teepee. I called them up. The nice lady said the American Indigenous tribes are secretive and don’t give out information. She assured me I was probably a Cherokee and could go on acting like one if it made me feel better. Stupid ass lady. I do feel better.

Chief Quannah Parker; I inherited his hair

Have a Merry Christmas and may you live in the land of good water, bountiful game, and cold beer.

“A Fort Worth, Texas Kind of Christmas”


A personal recount of my childhood Christmas memories.

Photo by: Elf -O-Mat Studios

Riding a ceiling-mounted “Rocket Train” to nowhere around the basement of a department store doesn’t seem like a Christmas thing, but that’s what thousands of other Texas kids and I did every year in the 1950s.

Leonard Brothers Department Store occupied two square blocks of downtown Fort Worth real estate and was known as the Southwest’s Macy’s. They offered everything the big shot stores in the East carried, and then, hundreds of items no retailer in their right mind would consider.

If you had a mind to, one could purchase a full-length mink coat with optional mink mittens, the latest women’s high-fashion clothing line from Paris France, an Italian cut-crystal vile of Elizabeth Taylors spit, James Dean’s signature hair tonic, Rock Hudson’s autographed wedding photos, a housebroken Llama, an aluminum fishing boat and motor, a new car, a pole barn, a nice two-story craftsman home “build it yourself kit” delivered to your lot, chickens, barb wire, hay, horses and cows, a 30-30 Winchester rifle, a 40 caliber autographed General George Custer Colt pistol, a bottle of good hootch and a Ford tractor. That’s about as Texas as it gets.

The Christmas season in downtown Fort Worth was internationally recognized for its innovative and wonderous decorations. The righteous city fathers figured the best way to out-do Dallas, a full-time effort, was to line every building with white lights from top to bottom and install large glowing decorations on every lamp pole, street light, and building façade available. If that didn’t make you “ooooh and ahhhh,” then you needed to go home and hide in a closet.

A week, or so, after Thanksgiving, my parents would take my sister and me downtown to see the decorations and visit the Leonard Brothers Department Store. Santa just happened to be in their basement taking advanced verbal orders from every crumb cruncher that could climb the stairs and plop on his lap.

My sister, in between screams and crying fits, always asked for the latest doll. She was scared senseless of “HO-HO,” but she somehow managed to spit out her order. Like clockwork, every year, I asked for a Daisy BB Gun with a year’s supply of stainless silver ammo ( for killing werewolves), a full-size Elliot Ness operable Thompson Sub Machine Gun, or an Army surplus Bazooka with real rockets and a long, razor-sharp Bowie knife encased in a fringed leather holster. It was a 1950s boy thing; weapons were what we longed for. How else could we defeat Santa Anna at the Alamo or win World War II, again? Our neighborhood may have sported the best-supplied “kid army” on the planet, and jolly old Santa was our secret arms dealer; parents non-the wiser. I finally got the BB Gun, but Santy was wise enough to not bring the other request.

Walking down the stairs to the store’s basement was the thrill I waited for all year. There, hanging above my head, was the beautiful red and silver tinseled sign, “Toy Land,” kid nirvana, and the Holy Grail all in one room. The smell of burned popcorn and stale chocolate candy wafted up the stairs, and I could hear the cheesy Christmas choir music and the sound the Rocket Train made as it glided along the ceiling-mounted rails. I almost pissed my jeans.

Hundreds, if not thousands of parents jostled down isles of toys, pushing, grabbing, snarling like a pack of wild dogs fighting for that last toy; the holiday spirit and common courtesy was alive and well. The queue of kids for the Rocket Train snaked through the basement like a soup line.

There, sitting on his mini-mountain top perch, sat old red-suited Santa Claus and his elfin apprentices, herding kids to his lap at break-neck speed. Each child got about fifteen-seconds, a black and white photograph, and then it was off the lap and down the steps. Kids were fast in those days; we memorized and practiced our list weeks before our visit for maximum impact. “Ho-Ho” had better be writing this stuff down. Kids don’t forget, squat.

Two Santa visits, four Rocket Train rides, and three popcorn bags later, our family unit departed Leonard’s for the new and improved “Leonard’s Christmas Tree Land,” located across the street from the main building. Thanks to the demolition of several winos infested abandoned buildings, the new lot was now the size of Rhode Island and held enough trees for every person and their dog in Texas.

Thousands, if not millions of fresh-cut trees awaited our choosing. Father, always the cheapskate, chose a sensible tree; not too big, not too small, yet full and fluffy with a lovely piney aroma. My sister and I pointed and danced like fools for the “pink flocked” tree in the tent, that cost the equivalent of a week’s salary. My parents enjoyed our cute antics. The sensible tree was secured to the top of our Nash Rambler station wagon, and we are homeward bound.

Pulling into our driveway, it was impossible to miss our neighbors extravagant holiday display. We had been away from home for 6 hours and returned to a full-blown holiday extravaganza that made our modest home look like a tobacco road share-croppers shack.

Our next-door neighbors, Mr. Mister and Mrs. Mister were the neighborhood gossip fodder. The couple moved from Southern California for his job. He, an aircraft-design engineer, and she, a former gopher girl at Paramount Studios. The Misters reeked new-found money and didn’t mind flaunting it. They drove tiny Italian sports cars and hired a guy to mow their lawn. His wife, Mrs. Mister, always had a Pall Mall ciggie in one hand and a frosty cocktail in the other. Father said she looked like a pretty Hollywood lady named Jane Mansfield, but Mother said she resembled a “gimlet-assed dime-store chippy.” I got the impression that the Misters were quite popular in the neighborhood.

Their Christmas display was pure Cecil B. DeMille. A life-size plywood sleigh, with Santa and his reindeer, covered the Mister’s roof, and 20 or more automated Elves and various holiday characters greeted passersby. Twinkling lights covered every bush and plant in the yard, and a large machine spat out thousands of bubbles that floated through the neighborhood. This was far more than Fort Worth was ready for.

The kill-shot was their enormous picture window that showcased a ceiling-high blue flocked tree bathed in color-changing lights. There, framed in the glow of their yuletide decor, sat Mr. and Mrs. Mister with their two poodles, Fred and Ginger, perched on their expensive modern sofa, sipping vermouth martinis like Hollywood royalty. This display of pompacious decadence didn’t go unnoticed by my parents.

Father hauled our puny tree into the living room and began unpacking lights for the decorating that would happen tomorrow evening. Mother hurried my sister and me off to bed. Visions of spying Elves, sugar plum pudding, and dangerous weapons danced in my head; Christmas was upon us.

Sometime after 10 PM, Father got hungry. Searching for sandwich fixings in the kitchen, he found a bottle of Jim Beam bourbon. Then he found a fresh half gallon of Egg-Nog, which of course, he enjoyed with the bourbon. While searching for bread to make the ham sandwich, he found two “Lux Laundry Soap Flake” boxes, with a dish-towel in each one. Then by chance, he discovered the food coloring. This gave him an idea for our sad little tree.

I awoke in a start. The sun was shining in my face, which meant I was late for school. I ran into the living room and was stopped in my tracks.

Our formally green tree was now flocked in thick pink snow, as were the curtains, the fireplace mantel, two chairs, the coffee table, and my father, who lay on the couch, passed out, with a half-eaten ham sandwich on his chest. My Mother sat a few feet away, sipping her coffee and smoking a Winston; my Louisville slugger lay on her lap. I was reluctant to approach her, but I had to know.

I timidly put my hand on her shoulder and asked, “Mom, is Dad going to be alright?” She took a sip of coffee and a drag from her ciggie and said, “well, for right now, he will be, but after he wakes up, who knows.”

Scatter Shooting While Wondering About Things I Can’t Change


I miss Blackie Sherrod and Dan Jenkins; two of the greatest sportswriters and humorists of our time. Authors, comedians, and good old boys that drank martini’s with the rich folk at Colonial Country Club and then afterward got a dice game going with the black caddies behind the superintendent’s shack.

Against my wishes and my common sense that told me not to, I did get the vaccine; both shots, in my left arm. Unfortunately, the second jab left me sick for 36 hours.

I lay on my sweat-soaked deathbed dreaming of cold ice water with a lemon wedge and banana pudding topped with vanilla wafers. The CVS lady that jabbed me the second time said I might have vivid dreams with a high fever, but she never mentioned food cravings.

I don’t plan on a third or fourth, or fifth shot. I’m done. It’s clear the vaccine does not work as intended, at least not in most countries. I will stay home, avoid crowds and all that BS from last year, but no more jabs for this old guy. I have Netflix, Amazon Prime, a jail-broke Firestick, good Irish Whiskey, and Becker wines, so I’m good.

I have an uneasy feeling that the government may have inserted super-duper-micro-tracking devices and Alexa-inspired listening bugs into the vaccine. I can’t prove it, but it’s a premonition that came to me in a nightmare a few weeks back. My wife had the same dream, so either we are spending too much time together, or some Twilight Zone stuff happening here.

My sister and her husband flew to Frankfurt Germany, to see their incredible Christmas Markets a few days ago. WTH? We have lovely markets here with plenty of lights and decorations, and you don’t risk getting killed by a terrorist. They said the risk is worth it since they got a sweet deal on plane tickets last year; buy one get one free. My brother-in-law is partial to warm German beer, and my sister likes strudel. She asked if I wanted a souvenir; I said bring me an autographed picture of Adolf.

They are fully vaxed, with punched cards, tattoos, baby pictures and all that, and reams of medical records offering more proof than anyone would require, so hopefully, they will make it back to Texas before Germany shuts down. I did advise her to find a friendly Bavarian family to live with if they can’t return home anytime soon.

I learned this afternoon that another caravan of 9,000 well-equipped and well-fed Haitians is on its way to the Mexico/Texas border. Apple has an 18 wheel tech truck traveling with the invaders if their $1500 iPhones or IPads break down. Add that to the other caravan that is a few days away, and you have enough folks to populate a Texas border town.

President Demento is thinking about re-instating the Trump law to stay in Mexico. The Mexican El Presidente’ is panicking. No crossings mean no payoffs from the Cartels and no economy. It’s either that scenario, or the Texas Rangers Cutting Horse Team, the Texas National Guard, and The Sons of The Alamo will be waiting for the invading hordes as they gather on the banks of the Rio Grande. I may go down to watch the battle and wave the 1824 Texas flag. We can open carry firearms with no license here in Texas, so you never know what might happen if some gun-slinging Bubba says “hold my beer and watch this.” It happens all the time.

Biden is now touting that he and the Pope have been good friends for decades. Joe B says he liked all the Pope’s routines when he was on Saturday Night Live. Father Guido Sarducci couldn’t be reached for comment.

The newest rage in urban America is flash mobs breaking into department stores and cleaning out their expensive merchandise. Of course, the cops yawn and have another donut. Not my job, man; I’m defunded. After cleaning out a Gucci Store in Beverly Hills, one mob did a choreographed dance routine to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and streamed it live on Facebook.

Upon Becoming Mark Twain


Photo by: Ansel Adams

When I was young and started to read books, real books, not the comics my friends read and I had no interest in, I discovered Mark Twain. I thank my elementary school librarian for that. She gently guided me into a world of imagination through a masterful author.

After reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I was going to be Mark Twain. It didn’t matter to me that almost a hundred years earlier, he had already been Mark Twain; I was set on becoming him, through me, a ten-year-old with limited writing ability. However, I did have a colorful imagination, so that was a good start.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t write, I did write exceptionally well for my age, but I didn’t possess the mind of Mr. Twain. I hadn’t known Tom Sawyer, or Jim, or Huckleberry, or lived on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. I was a kid stuck in Fort Worth, Texas, with a Big Chief Tablet and a handful of No. 2 pencils.

I read other authors as well, but they weren’t Mr. Twain. Jack London was too scary, and too many wild animals. John Steinbeck was a masterful storyteller, and I did make it through most of The Grapes of Wrath, which mirrored what my grandparents and father had lived through. I continued to write on my tablet. I didn’t knowingly plagiarize any author, but they did give me good ideas and taught me to group words into a story.

The day my class let out for Christmas vacation, my teacher asked the class to share what we wanted to be when we grew up. It wasn’t a serious exercise, only one to kill the last 30 minutes of the school day.

The usual from our age group was a doctor, a fireman, a policeman, and some of the girls who wanted to be teachers or nurses. When my turn came, I stood up and announced, with all seriousness, that I want to be Mark Twain. Mrs. Badger, my teacher, promptly informed me that there already was a Mark Twain, and he had been dead for a while now.

I answered, ” yes, I know, but, his spirit requires that I continue on with his writings, and witt. So I will be the new Mark Twain.” I was in the principal’s office within a few minutes.

I never became Mark Twain, except in my daydreams or nightmares, but I did learn to appreciate good writing and stories.

The Christmas I Discovered Santa Was A Fake


Photo by: Head Elf No. 1

The hundreds of hours I wasted thinking about Santa Claus; where he lived, was he happy, did Mrs. Claus make him hot cocoa and cookies, do his deer have a lovely barn, how do they fly, did he get my letter, was I on the nice or naughty list, are his Elves watching me?

My life was consumed by Santa from 4 years old until I turned 9. I was a true believer, a young pilgrim to the point of becoming a child Santa Evangelist. Anyone says something terrible about Santa, it was put up your dukes time or a come to Santa prayer meeting. My younger sister was also a firm believer, but then, she was brainwashed by me, and I was programmed by my parents, grandparents, and the rest of the fam damnly.

On Thanksgiving Day, the trickery commenced around our household. First, my mother, the master of deceit, would warn us about the naughty list and what would happen if we were on it. Then it was, ” the Elves are watching you through the windows to see if you’re good.” That’s the one that got to me the most. I had a plan to catch them.

After lights out, I slinked out of bed under cover of my darkened room. Crawling on my belly like a soldier, I made my way to the nearest window. Back against the wall, I slid up and moved the blinds in a flash, hoping to catch the little guys. I never saw one spying on me, but I knew they were there and faster on the draw. Santa and his gang were tricky.

The annual Christmas visit to Leonard Brothers Department Store in downtown Fort Worth was the ultimate Santa experience. Toyland was akin to holiday Nirvana for us kids. A rocket ship monorail glided around the basement ceiling, kids packed in like sardines on a rocket train to nowhere. Parents rush to purchase presents while the kids are busy, hiding them under their coats or in bags and lying to their innocent children with straight parental faces.

Santa held his court in the middle of Toyland. His throne was 10 ft. off the ground, with stairs leading up and then down. A majestic sight if there ever was one. Sitting in a velvet chair fit for a king while his Elfin helpers lifted the crumb crunchers on and off of his lap, it was pure excellence. A line of snot-nosed kids snaked around the room, waiting for their chance to place their order, up the stairs, on the lap for 15 seconds, then off the lap, and down the stairs. The visit was over before you knew what had happened. It was the same routine for years, and I loved it. I could spit out my order in under 10 seconds. Santa and his helpers were impressed.

I asked Santa for a bicycle when I was 9 years old. A red and white machine with side mirrors, streamers, a headlight, and white-side-wall balloon tires. I also asked for a new BB Gun, a larger Cub Scout knife, and a Fanner 50 cap pistol with green stick-um caps. My sister asked him for a doll that was larger than she was and a dollhouse.

Christmas Eve arrived, bedtime rolled around, and we hit the sack. Hot Ovaltine and cookies put me out like a light. Then, sometime after midnight or later, I had to pee. I didn’t want to get up, but the Ovaltine was causing me some discomfort. Half asleep, shuffling down the hallway, I looked into the living room as I passed the doorway. With a Schlitz beer in his hand, my father was sitting by the tree, assembling a red bike like the one I was expecting. My mother was working on a cardboard dollhouse, and the giant doll my sister wanted was standing under the tree looking creepy.

I convinced myself that Santa must have run out of time and had recruited my parents to complete his work. The reality of the sight was not an option.

My father looked up and saw me standing there; our eyes met, and he smiled like a raccoon caught in a trash can. The jig was up. The big lie was exposed, and my childhood imploded right there in the hallway. Daddy was Santa, and mom was Mrs. Claus. I peed and made my way back to bed, not comprehending what I had witnessed.

I awakened at daybreak, our usual Christmas morning routine. I was thankful to be awake and away from the nightmare that had gripped me most of the night. I was relieved that it was all caused by the Ovaltine. The gifts were under the tree, and life was good. I loved the bike and the BB Gun, but my sister was afraid of the enormous lifelike doll.

After breakfast, I was lying under the Christmas tree building an army fort with my plastic soldiers. That’s when I found a Schlitz beer bottle, assembly instructions for a bike, and a few tools.

The Neighborhood Wizard Strikes Again!


Mister Mower 5000

I have written about my childhood neighbor and his wife before. Mr. Mister and Mrs. Mister of Ryan Ave, Fort Worth, Texas. Every kid should be so lucky to have known the original mad scientist.

Pictured above is Mr. Mister’s early prototype of “The Mister Mower 5000,” a self-propelled riding reel mower suitable for golf courses and yard snobs. This baby was something else.

Constructed from junk jet aircraft parts he pilfered from Carswell Air Force Base, his employer, this little hummer would reach a top speed of 20 miles per hour and cut the grass so low it would give an ant a flat top haircut. It was the first riding mower with a zero-turning radius, a drink holder, an ashtray, and an under-dash air conditioner taken from a wrecked Chevy Corvette. The fathers in our neighborhood would gather and watch when Mr. or Mrs. Mister would mow their front lawn. Mrs. Mister was a Hollywood starlet type, so she usually garnered the most significant crowd because she always wore a bikini bathing suit for maximum tanning effect.

In 1956, sales for “Toro” lawnmowers were sagging, so after learning of Mr. Misters’ new invention, the executives arranged a demonstration of his invention at the Colonial Country of Fort Worth, home to the prestigious “Colonial Golf Tournament.” Mr. Mister was ecstatic.

The demonstration was the day before the big golf tournament, so the Fort Worth big wigs could attend and be handy for photo-ops. The Misters arrived with the “5000” strapped to its custom-made trailer towed behind their menstrual red Alfa Romeo sports car. Fred and Ginger, their poodles, were strapped into their car seats, both wearing head scarfs and sunglasses like Mrs. Mister. Ben Hogan was almost as impressed with the invention as with Mrs. Mister, so he asked if he could be the first to drive the contraption. Of course, Mr. Mister, a huge Hogan fan, agreed and instructed Mr. Ben to operate the mower. Keep in mind, this machine was experimental and subject to total failure at any moment.

The mower was rolled into place on the 18th green, which was a bit shaggy and in need of a buzz. Ben Hogan, his ever-present cigarette in his mouth, seated himself on the machine. Mr. Mister set the required mowing height and gave Ben a few final instructions.

Now, Ben Hogan was the world’s best golfer at that time, but he didn’t know Jack-squat about driving or operating any form of machinery. So Ben put the mower in gear and started around the green. “Ooohs and Ahhhs” from the crowd gave him a bit of encouragement; the newsboys were snapping some great shots, folks were clapping and whistling, so he upped the speed a bit and pulled a lever underneath the seat, hoping to increase the efficiency of the “5000.”

At that moment, Mr. Mister realized that he had failed to warn Ben about that one lever that was hands-off. Too late. Ben engaged the “Scalp” mode, which increased the power and lowered the blades to the “Eve of Destruction” setting. At twenty-five miles per hour, the “5000” and Ben Hogan holding on for his life dug up the 18th green deep enough to plant summer squash and Indian corn. Dirt and dwarf Bermuda was flying like a Texas twister. The Leonard Brothers, part owners of the club, fainted in unison. Mrs. Mister, a track star in her early years at Berkley and still in great shape, sprinted to the runaway mower and leaped onto Ben’s back, hoping to reach the kill switch, another part Mr. Mister had failed to show Ben.

Mrs. Mister

Mrs. Mister made a final attempt to reach the switch by climbing over Mr. Hogans head and wrapping her track star legs around his neck. Finally, on her last effort, she reached the toggle, and the mower abruptly stopped, throwing her and Mr. Ben off the machine and into the beautiful pond adjacent to the green.

Ben waded out first, lit a Camel, and strode across the destroyed green to the bar where he ordered two double Scotches. Mrs. Mister, wearing a promotional white tee-shirt with ” The Mister Mower 5000″ printed on the front, waded out of the pond to a round of applause. The news photographers were popping flashbulbs like firecrackers.

Of course, Toro passed on the mower, Mr. Mister was distraught until he started his next invention, the 18th green was re-sodded in a few hours, Ben Hogan won the Colonial Tournament, and Mrs. Mister inaugurated the first Wet Tee Shirt Contest in Texas.

“A Texas Christmas Miracle Brisket”


After sixteen-year-old Tex Styles is inducted into “The Sons Of The Alamo Lodge,” and gets his big write-up in the Fort Worth Press and a shout-out on the Bobbi Wygant Television show, his status as a “wonder kid” champion griller is increased by ten-fold. So, naturally, everybody wants a piece of Tex, or at least a plate full of his Brisket and sausage.

 His face is on the cover of Bon Appetit magazine and Sports Illustrated, thanks to Dan Jenkins. The Michelin Travel Guide lists him as the top meat griller in America and gives him a five-star rating. Julia Childs is fuming mad. 

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip are Texas BBQ fans from way back. So, they send Tex an invite to prepare a meat feast at Buckingham Palace; the boy lives in high cotton and cold beer and has not yet graduated high school. 

Upon his graduation from Pascal High School in 1968, the Army drafts Tex and sends him to Viet Nam for a visit. His captain happens to be a Fort Worth boy who knows Tex’s hometown celebrity status, which, in turn, gets Tex a gig as the top generals’ chef. He won’t hold a rifle or fire a shot for his two-years tour. Instead, a smoker grill large enough for thirty steaks and ten briskets is his weapon. A color photograph of his boyhood grill instead of the usual Playboy fold-out hangs next to his cot. The general tells his men that he “loves the smell of smoking brisket in the morning.” Tex is an immediate rock star. 

Tex used his time in Vietnam wisely by learning exotic cooking techniques from the locals. 

For example, a shriveled up old Mama-San educated him on using “Vietnamese Death Peppers,” the hottest pepper in the world. If a man ate one whole, death would occur within twenty minutes, or so the Mama-San said. Tex nibbled a small end piece and was on fire for two days, unable to leave the barracks bathroom, so he figured she wasn’t bullshitting him. 

A month of experimentations with the “Death Pepper” resulted in an edible and survivable pepper sauce. Tex called it “Davy Crocketts Ass Canon,” since he is a “Son Of The Alamo” and all that. 

He found a local business in Siagon to bottle the product, and a local artist produced an excellent illustrated label for the bottle. It pictures Davy Crockett with his buckskin pants around his ankles, torching Mexican soldiers with a massive fiery flame shooting from his buttocks. In addition, the label said it’s a marinade, a pepper sauce, a medicinal elixir, and a hemorrhoid eradicator. All of this is true, so it’s bound to be a huge hit. 

In June 1972, Miss Piddle Sonjair was a nineteen-year-old winner of the “Miss Chigger Bayou Louisiana” contest. Although she is not the prettiest girl entered, she is the only one with a complete set of straight white teeth, no baby bump, and doesn’t have a snot-nose kid hanging off her hip, making her the popular winner via unanimous decision.   

As the newly crowned “Miss Chigger Bayou,” Piddle Sonjair makes her appearance at the “Shreveport Annual Crawfish, Sausage and Meat Smoking Festival,” where she meets handsome Tex Styles as she awards him the winner’s trophy. 

She is bug-eyed- shaky-legged enamored with his triple-crusty-peppered Angus brisket and his ten-alarm jalapeno wild boar sausage smothered in his secret chipmunk sauce. 

Marriage follows a few months later, then two sons and two daughters round out the Styles family. So naturally, all the kids take to grilling and smoking, just like dear old Dad.  

Tex, Piddle, and the children travel the country in their two custom tour bus’s, pulling a 30-foot smoker and grill for the next twenty years. They smoke, grill, and serve the best meats in the south, winning competitions and elevating Tex to legendary status in the grilling world. 

His Fort Worth boyhood home, listed in the state historic register, is a traffic-jamming tourist attraction. His first Weber grill is cast in bronze and displayed at Will Rogers Auditorium during the “Fat Stock Show.” Men worldwide come and pay homage to “the masters,” sacred covenant. It’s a moving sight to see grown-assed men weep while kneeling and touching the small grill. It’s one of the top tourist attractions in the south. 

Tex is now seventy-two and retired from competitive cooking. The only folks that get a Styles brisket and fixin’s are his select clientele of fifty-plus years and Father Frank, the priest at Our Lady of Perpetual Repentance church of which Tex and Piddle are members in good standing. He has more money than King Faruk, a large home on Lake Granbury, and a cabin in Ruidoso, New Mexico, so he’s in the cooking game for fun. 

Ten days before Christmas, Tex gets a call from his old pal Willie “the Red Headed Stranger,” Nelson. 

Willie, his family, his band, their families, and numerous relatives and hangers-on have planned a “Santa Claus Pick’in and Grinn’in Christmas” shin-dig at Willies Dripping Springs ranch. Willie has a hankering for a Tex Styles holiday meat feast with all of Miss Piddle’s fancy fixins’.

Tex and Willie exchange the usual howd’ys, and then Willie drops his order. 

Expecting around two-hundred-seventy-five people and assorted animals at the shin-dig, Willie needs enough food to satisfy a herd with possible pot munchies and other self-induced disorders. 

Willie’s list is a booger bear, and Tex isn’t sure if he and Piddle can fulfill it in time, so he calls in his two sons and a couple of grandkids for backup. 

Willie needs 38 each of Tex’s 30-pound “Goodnight Irene Ranch Briskets,” 45 each of West Texas spoon-fed bacon wrapped-beer can pork butts, 35 pounds of San Saba wild pig sausage, and 59 educated and certified free-range smoked chickens, with documentation attached. 

All of the sides and fixin’s, are Piddles forte’, and will consist of 175 pounds of “Jacksboro Highway Red Skinned Tater Salad”, 175 pounds of “O.B. Jauns Canobi-Oil Mexican Macaroni Salad”, 120 pounds of high octane Shiner Bock Ranch Style beans, 235 pounds of Piddles special “Nanner Pudding,” 50 gallons of Tex’s secret sweet n’ spicy Chipmunk sauce, and one bottle of ” Davy Crocketts Ass Cannon” hot sauce.

Finally, to wash’er down, 135 gallons of Tex’s unique Dr. Pepper CBD oil-infused sweet tea and 5 commercial coffee urns of Dunkin Donuts Breakfast Blend coffee. The order is too big to ship, so Tex’s fifth grandson and granddaughter will deliver it to the ranch in the Styles family food truck. Money is not a worry for Willie, so he doesn’t discuss cost, which rounds out to be about $18,000 without taxes and tips. 

Tex fires up his 30-foot trailer-mounted smoker and three custom-made “Styles Grills.” The next morning. Grandson number 3 unloads a pickup bed full of Mesquite, Peach, and Oak firewood purchased from the “Little Bobs” wood co-op in Eastwood, Texas. Tex won’t use wood or charcoal that doesn’t come from West of Fort Worth; if he suspects it may have come from Dallas or anywhere East of there, he throws it out. He is a Fort Worth boy to a fault.

At midnight, Tex pulls a tester brisket and carts it into the kitchen for a “slice and chew,” checking for tenderness, aroma, and flavor. 

When he pulls back the foil wrap, he gasps and stumbles a few steps backward. Piddle hears this and bolts to the kitchen, where she finds a “white as a ghost” Tex sitting in a chair. Thinking he is having “the big one,” she dials 911, but Tex stops the call, assuring her he is alright. 

He asks Piddle to join him next to the Brisket, telling her to describe what she sees. After a few seconds, she lets out a hound-dog yelp and crosses herself. 

There, on the kitchen counter, resting in a tin-foil boat of succulent juices, sits a 20-pound brisket perfectly shaped like the Virgin Mary holding her baby Jesus. The contour of the torso, the flowing robe, her angelic face, and the little baby in her arms look as if a great master had carved that hunk of beef. Piddle gets all weepy-eyed and announces that this is a “Christmas Miracle Brisket.” Tex takes a picture with his phone and sends it to Father Frank, telling him to get over here now; we may have a miracle on our hands. 

An hour later, Father Frank and two Nuns from the rectory view the miracle meat in the kitchen. 

Father Frank is skeptical; these things usually happen in Latin America and tend to be the face of Jesus on a tortilla or a piece of burnt toast, not a 20-pound hunk of beef brisket.  

The two Nuns intensely study the Brisket for a good thirty minutes. Then, finally, sister Mary and Sister Madgealyn, renowned experts in miracles of all things holy, inform Father Frank that this is the real deal and he should contact the Vatican, stat. So Father Frank dials the Popes’ secure red phone hotline. The Holy Father answers. 

The conversation is in Latin and lasts for a few minutes. Then, finally, a bit shook, the good Father hangs up and tells Tex that the Vatican’s special investigation team will arrive tomorrow afternoon and to please hire armed guards to protect the miracle meat. Tex agrees. 

Father Frank asks Tex if he might take a tiny slice of the useless burned fat home for religious reasons. Tex cuts a sliver from the back of the meat and wraps it in foil. The nuns, Father Frank, and the miracle sliver depart.

The following day is Sunday, and Tex and Piddle are too busy cooking to attend services. Then, around 1 PM, Father Frank calls Tex and tells him that “we have got a problem.” 

 Seems that the good Father couldn’t resist a tiny taste of the burned miracle fat before bedtime; he said it was the most Heavenly thing he had ever put into his mouth. 

When Father Frank stared into the bathroom mirror this morning, he thought he had died and gone to Heaven. But he was still here, and, instead of a 70-year-old white-haired man in the mirror, a younger version of himself with thick jet black hair and perfect white teeth stared back. His hemorrhoids are gone, his gout is healed, his vision is excellent, his knee’s and hips don’t hurt, he took a dump like a big dog, his skin is as smooth as a baby’s bald head, and he has a woody so hard a cat couldn’t scratch it. This miracle brisket is the real deal for sure. But, Tex senses there is more to the Father’s explanation. So, he presses him for the rest. 

Father Frank comes clean and begins to weep like a teenage girl having her period, telling Tex that the experience is a flat-out-miracle, and he was compelled by the all-mighty to share it with his congregation during mass this morning. So, he told them the whole beautiful story. Tex murmured, sum-bitch, and hung up the phone. 

Before Tex can get really good and pissed at the good Father, his buddy down the street, Mooch, calls and tells Tex to check his front lawn. “It ain’t good little buddy,” was all Mooch said. News travels like wildfire in a small town, especially if it involves religion.  

A hundred or more people sit, lay, stand or take up space in wheelchairs, hospital gurneys, and walkers on the front lawn. The overflow takes up his neighbors front yard. 

The block is a traffic jam, and two news trucks from Fort Worth are parked in his driveway, antenna raised and going live. Last night, the two Nuns accompanying Father Frank are now standing on Tex’s front porch, signing autographs and giving fake communion using Goldfish crackers and Sunny Delite grape drink instead of sacraments. The healing circus just hit town.

Two police officers show up. They demand to see Tex’s permit for a gathering of over fifty people and organizing an outside church service. Tex explains there is no church service, but the two nuns giving fake communion show otherwise. The cops write Tex a few tickets and leave. 

As soon as the cops depart, the Vatican Special Forces arrive. 

Five burly boys in black Georgio Armani suits wearing mirrored aviator sunglasses and sporty Italian Fedoras force themselves into the house. So, naturally, they want the miracle meat. Two black limos with fender flags are parked in front of Tex’s house. The news folks go apocalyptic. Father Frank is curbside giving a live interview to Vatican Television News. It has officially hit the fan.

The main burly boy produces a document printed on expensive Vatican parchment saying that “All Miracles involving God, Jesus, The Virgin Mary, or any relative or likeness thereof on an article of food is the sole property of the Pope and the Catholic Church LLC.” It’s signed by the Pope and has a small picture of him glued next to his signature. 

Tex claims bullshit and tells the Pope’s boys to hit the road. Piddle stands in the kitchen doorway, 9mm in hand. Her look says, “don’t mess with a Coon-Ass gal this Brisket ain’t leaving Granbury, Texas.” 

The Vatican boys, muttering select Italian curse words, leave in a huff. Tex knows what he is meant to do with the Miracle Brisket. 

Willie Nelson sees the news coverage down in Austin and calls Tex on his cell phone. ” I sure could use some of that Miracle Brisket when you deliver my order. The old lumbago and prostate cancer has been acting up and it hurts so bad I can hardly roll a joint or pack my pipe. I’ll be glad to donate a couple of hundred grand to any charity you choose.” Tex says he will send a piece if there is any left. Willie’s word is as good as gold. 

Father Frank rushes into the house, arms waving, screaming like a fainting goat. ” What in God’s name have you done you backwoods cow cooking toothless hillbilly? I’m ruined!” 

It seems the good Father made a sleazy back door deal with the His Popeness for a secret trip to the Vatican and a fancy appointment to some committee if he delivered the Miracle Brisket to Rome. So, Tex tells the good Father, in a non to gentle way, that the meat is staying in Granbury and will do whatever good it can here at home.  

Father Frank yells, ” you double dog crossing sum-bitch,” grabs the two nuns, and they are history. Tex tells them, “don’t let the door hit you in the ass.” He had a feeling that Father Frank was never as holy as he pretended to be, and the nuns were probably ex-hookers.

Tex goes to the kitchen, lays the meat on a cutting board, and slices the Miracle Brisket into tiny slivers, wrapping each morsel in a square of tin foil. He and Piddle then distribute the bites to every person in their front yard that is ill or has an apparent medical condition. He also gives a nibble to his fifteen-year-old dog, McMurtry.

Tex then sends his two sons, his two daughters, grandsons, and granddaughters along with himself and Piddle to every nursing home, mission, physician’s office, memory care facility, hospice, veterinary clinic, and hospital in town with pieces of the Miracle Brisket. 

Tex saves the last sliver for Willie. 

We All Screamed For The Ice Cream Man


Summer afternoons with temps in the upper 90s. There is no air conditioning in your house, and you have a bad case of chiggers you picked up from the vacant lot down the street. Your front tooth is loose, and two toes on your left foot may be broken from being run over by your uncles’ station wagon. Life for kids in the 1950s was hard. But, the one thing that made it all worthwhile was the Ice Cream Man.

You could hear the cheesy music from two blocks away; plenty of time to make it home for some change. It didn’t matter if there was an entire half-gallon of Blue Bunny in the freezer, the Ice Cream Man was coming, and he had what we needed, the good stuff; Popsicles, Dreamsicles, Chocolate Cows, Rockets, Push Up Sherbert, Fudge Bars, and Eskimo Pies.

I thought selling ice cream from a white truck while dressed in a uniform was my career path. So I told my father that’s going to be me in a few years. But, yessir-ree-bob, it didn’t get any better than Mr. Good Humor pushing frozen sweets to kids. Of course, my father was concerned about my plans, but I was 7 years old and likely to change professional aspirations within a few hours. I also thought the Milk Man was a great gig. Half the kids on our block resembled him.

My pal Skipper and I once crawled into the back of the Vandorvorts Milk truck and rode for two blocks before being caught. We drank as much chocolate milk as we could hold before being discovered. It was freezing cold inside, but we did our best. It was worth the butt-busting.

There is nothing quite as funny as a bunch of kids with Popsicles stuck to their tongues running and screaming bloody murder. I always thought that ice cream man had a mean streak.

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